The number of tools used to caption words has expanded in recent years. The tools are especially useful for people with hearing loss who may not be able to use traditional hearing aids.
Subtitling services used to be mostly limited to television programs. But in recent years, developers have made apps for telephones and other electronic devices. These apps make it possible for many people to use caption technology everywhere.
In the United States, hearing loss problems affect an estimated 40 million adults. Many people use hearing aids to combat the problem. But high-quality hearing aids can cost up to $5,000. The devices are often not covered by: insurance and don’t work for everyone.
Frank Lin is the director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He told The Associated Press that many people do not treat their hearing problems because of a lack of effective options†
“The solutions out there are clearly not a one-size-fits-all model and do not meet the needs of many people based on cost, accessa lot of different things,” said Lin.
Industry experts say that cheaper, high-quality hearing aids are currently being developed. But for now, only about 20 percent of people who can be helped by hearing aids use them.
Captions are usually a lot easier to access than hearing aids. They have started to appear in many more forms of media. These include video conferencing apps such as Zoom, television program providers such as Netflix, and social media services YouTube and TikTok. Captions can also be found in some movie theaters and live event centers.
There are also several phone apps that offer closed captioning, such as Otter, Google’s Live Transcribe, Ava, and InnoCaption. Some of these apps are aimed at people with hearing loss and use people to improve the quality of the subtitles.
Otter and the Live Transcribe apps rely on a technology called automatic speech recognition (ASR). This system uses artificial intelligence to learn and record speech.
ASR can cause errors or delays when: transcribe spoken words. But many users and experts say that the technology has improved a lot over the years.
While there are more options for improving hearing, none of the solutions is perfect.
Toni Iacolucci of New York says she sometimes had problems using Otter to transcribe at book club meetings. The captions were often incorrect and did not identify individual speakers. This can make it difficult to keep up, she said.
“It kind of worked,” said Iacolucci, who lost her hearing nearly 20 years ago. When she got home, she’d be so tired of trying to follow the meeting’s discussion that she had to lie down. “It just takes so much energy,” she says.
Otter said in a statement it welcomes comments about its products from people who are completely deaf or have hearing problems. The company noted that it now offers a paid software assistant that can transcribe virtual meetings.
A new law that went into effect in New York City on May 15 requires movie theaters to offer on-screen captions up to four times per movie each week. Captions are also increasingly available for live performances.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn has adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
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Words in this story
caption † n. words written under a picture or screen to explain or describe what is being said and what is going on
app † n. a computer program that performs a special function, usually found on mobile phones
choice – n. a choice
access † n. a way to get to, near or to something
artificial intelligence † n. the development of computer systems with the ability to perform work that would normally require human intelligence
transcribe † v. to make a written record of something being heard, such as speech or music
virtual † adj. used to describe something that can be done or seen using computers or the internet rather than happening in a physical place